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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

MODERN  GERMAN  LITERATURE

Venice, seen far below the terrace where youth gathers in pictur-
esque poses, merged in the deep night tints of the Italian land-
scape, is transfigured to beauty by distance, though ugliness and
beauty dwell there, and mad folks with bestial:

Und was die 7erne mise dir verhiillt,

1st ekelhaft und trub und schal erfiillt

Von Wesen> die die Schonheit nicht erkennen

Und ihre Welt mit unsern Worten nennen . . .

Denn unsre Wonne oder unsre Pein

Hat mit der ihren nur das Wort gemein . ..

Critics have made too much of the depiction of Titian as a Taten-
menscb. Even this picture of life-force is swathed in soft undulating
rhythms and in a feminized mood: Tizianello, Titian's son, sobs
and weeps and sleeps with Gianino, a lovely lad of sixteen, as
girl-like as Lisa, with the yellow rose-bud in her raven hair, is
boy-like. The problem is one which falls naturally into Hofmanns-
thaPs limited range: what passes through the mind in the hour of
death, the mysterious return of things long merged in forgetful-
ness, and, it may be, a last clearness of will and purpose and a
poignant realization of lost chances. This is the sum and substance
of Der Tor und der 1^(1892). The hero, Claudio, is yet another
sterile dilettante; and it is only when death appears that he realizes
the inanity of his sensual and selfish life, in which nobody was
anything to him and he was nothing to anybody. He has been one
of those who, in Dante's words, seek 'to make themselves perfect
by the worship of beauty'; but the aesthete's enjoyment of life,
the lesson runs, is not life, and Claudio makes the terrible dis-
covery that he has never lived; his agonized cry to Death, who
comes, not as a skeleton but as a handsome fiddler elegantly clad,
is: "Ich habe nicht gelebtT It is hardly accidental that Claudio is a
namesake of the hero of Measure for Measure \ both are 'not pre-
pared for death9. There is no doubt that Der Tor und der Tod is a
modern version of the medieval Dance of Death: the play ends
with the shades of Claudio's mother and his discarded love fol-
lowing Death as he departs playing his violin, with a shape that
resembles Claudio bringing up the rear. It is perhaps accidental
that Shelley in his preface to Alastor and Keats in The Fall of
Hyperion inculcate the same moral. Shelley delivers stern judgment